Newcastle Falcons second-row Carlo del Fava has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to a neck injury.
The 32-year-old, who was capped 54-times by Italy, has decided to call time on his rugby career following advice from medical experts that to enable him to continue to play he must undergo two major operations without any certainty of success.
Del Fava joined the Falcons in the summer of 2012 and played an integral part in helping the club make an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership.
Making 12 appearances for the northeasterners this term including ten starts, the no-nonsense lock has been a cornerstone of the Falcons pack until injury put paid to his campaign.
Standing at 6ft 6" and weighing in at just over 18 stone, the Italian giant has enjoyed a fruitful career starting with spells at Rugby Parma and Bourgoin, before making the switch to Ulster Rugby in 2007. Del Fava moved to Viadana following two seasons at Ravenhill, and after representing fellow Italian club Aironi, the Falcons came calling for his services ahead of the 2012/13 campaign.
"I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of my rugby career and I'm now looking forward to the challenges post rugby," said del Fava.
"I'm very disappointed not to be involved with the club's Aviva Premiership campaign for the remainder of the season, and I would like to wish the team all the very best," he added.
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards said: "I'm bitterly disappointed for Carlo, who during his two seasons with us has been a fantastic character to have around the club both on and off the field."
"It was an extremely difficult decision for him to have to make, but it was the right one for him and we wish him all the very best for the future."